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Full text of "Movable stationery"

I .T I T I I I E I Y 



VOLUME 6 

NUMBER 1 

FEBRUARY 

1998 



The Multi-dimensional Dutchman: 
An interview with Ron van der Meer 

Michael Dawson 
Ludlow, England 

An elderly aunt of mine, to whom we paid 
regular courtesy visits during the war years, used to 
look upon my restless antics with a slightly jaundiced 
eye and declare that I had far too much Super Fluous 
Energy, a malapropism that became something of a 
family joke. Time — alas - has drained me of most of this 
highly charged viscosity but occasionally the phrase 
returns as being entirely appropriate to a few others I 
have had the pleasure of knowing. 



Ron van der Meer 
is one such - a 
man who seems to 
have Super 
Fluidity in 
abundance! 
Lanky, mercurial, 
somewhat 
abrasive; he has 
the charm and 
raw 




Ron van der Meer 



disingenuousness of a perpetual schoolboy . Add to these 
traits his much-flaunted Dutch origins and you have a 
quick-witted iconoclast who enjoys confronting 
problems head-on and solving them with wit and down- 
to-earth practicality. 

As a virtuoso children's book illustrator, 
designer and producer especially associated with a 
string of best-selling pop-ups and the internationally 
successful fun-learning kits such as The art pack a ,The 
maths pack M , and the latest - The brain pack ,s — he is 
one of Britain's most talented and versatile book- 
packaging entrepreneurs. 

When I arrived at his recently acquired home 
and studio-complex on the southwestern fringe of 
London, the ground was trembling as if by his dynamic 
discharge: in fact, the secluded villa on a bosky rural 
lane is directly under the Heathrow flight-path and only 



a stone's throw from the M4 motorway whose rumble is 
omnipresent in the distance. He greeted me with red- 
stained fingers: I'd caught him polishing his trade-mark 
red shoes! Pictures of this traditional Dutch footwear 
appear as his logo on note-paper and business cards; at 
book fairs and publishers' gatherings, the sight {and 
sound) of pointy red shoes approaching indicate that 
Van der Meer is near. I asked whether he is still able to 
buy them off the shelf in Holland: apparently he now 
has them specially made in batches of three. And I 
wondered if they were being given a final buff in honor 
of my presence - but no. They were to be worn for a 
television session later in the day (an ITV crew were to 
film him for a schools' broadcast) and on a business trip 
immediately afterwards, first to the Netherlands (where, 
with his brother, he is forming a publishing company) 
and then on to America to clinch a few more deals. No 
wonder he chose headquarters so near the airport. 

We settled around the kitchen table with hard- 
backed chairs (no executive fripperies here) armed with 
strong coffee and cheroots, and I began by asking how 
his interest in book design - especially pop-ups — had 
begun. 

I studied graphic design for four years at the Royal 
College of Fine Art in The Hague. That was during the 
'60s. It was a very good course but strongly Bauhaus 
oriented. You know the sort of thing: your tutor got an 
orgasm if you put lettering at an angle against a primary 
colour background. We received an excellent training in 
basic graphic design and of course it's the sort of thing 
you never lose. Highly philosophical! Very rarified! But 
in a way I found it increasingly restrictive - I began to 
hate it - so when I finished in 1 969 1 was very anxious to 
get away. 

I wanted to leave Holland and I wanted to get 
into a different type of design altogether, one where I 
could apply the skills I'd acquired to other disciplines. I 
felt it was time to forget about graphic design; I didn't 
fancy spending my life devising corporate house-styles or 
company logos. When I was accepted by the Royal 
College of Art in London it was like entering Valhalla. 

Continued on page 2 



The Movable Book Society 

ISSN: 1097-1270 
Movable Stationery is the quarterly publication of The 
Movable Book Society. Letters and articles from 
members on relevant subjects are welcome. The annual 
membership fee for The Society is SI 5.00. For more 
information contact Ann Montanaro, The Movable Book 
Society, P.O. Box 1 1654, New Brunswick, New Jersey 
08906. 

Daytime telephone: 732-445-5896 
Evening telephone: 732-247-6071 
e-mail: montanar@rci.rutgers.edu 
Fax:732-846-7928 or 732-445-5888 

The deadline for the next issue is Mav 15. 



Continued from page 1 

The College had an enviable reputation in the 
Netherlands; it was the only place offering a three year 
master's degree in art anywhere in Europe at the time. In 
those days it was really tough to get in - I remember 
when I applied there were 300 applications for the ten 
places offered. There was three-day interview when you 
had to show your work and explain it. I loved the 
experience and was eventually accepted to do 
Educational Graphics. 

What did that entail? Illustrating text-books, 
designing wall-charts . . . that sort of thing? 

Nothing like that at all. In fact, when I started, 
the course hadn't really been invented! What I was 
anxious to do was make toys and three-dimensional 
teaching-aids. I designed a special educational alphabet 
for children at primary school. I re-designed the 
international phonetic alphabet. Being a Dutchman - and 
a cheeky one at that - they allowed me to work in just 
about every bloody department. Jewelry, sculpture, film- 
making - it was a marvelously liberating experience. In 
Holland we hardly had any chance to get away from the 
drawing-board - 1 think we were allowed to do a little bit 
of silk-screen printing - but only once. That was the 
highlight of our four year course. Whereas in London I 
was encouraged to devise my own strategy. It was much 
more open. Much more practical. Much wilder. 

My main project at the RCA was to invent a 
little industrial type of thingy that allowed blind people to 
draw . . . 



To do what? How on earth did you come by 
that idea? 

Well it all occurred because of something I 
found at a jumble sale. We don't have such things in 
Holland, you know. There are flea markets, of course, but 
your jumble sales here are cheaper . . . and much more 
fun. You have to fight with the old ladies and dive into 
the crum to find anything there. At one such scramble I 
found a little carton for 6 pence. Inside was a beautifully 
made wooden construction which, after experimenting 
for a while, I discovered was an old fashioned Braille 
typewriter. So what did I do? I sort of played with it. I 
sent letters off to my friends in Holland written in Braille 
- it took them 10 days to translate! 

Then I made up my own Braille alphabet 
because I didn't know the real one. From there, one thing 
led to another. 1 thought: how do blind people react to the 
concept of drawing? So I started planning a simple 
device that might help. 

Eventually they allowed me to take it to a 
special school in North London (The Chorley Wood 
School for Girls with little or no sight) where, every 
Wednesday evening, I taught blind girls to draw. After 
three years I felt that I'd built up enough experience to 
prove that blind people could be taught to express 
themselves just as well as the sighted. Indeed, one of my 
girls who was especially talented went on to do a 
foundation course at Goldsmith's College, them 
completed a degree in sculpture and was finally accepted 
at the Royal College to master in Environmental Studies. 
As far as I know, she's the only blind person in the world 
who has succeeded in undertaking a proper art education 
despite her disability. She was tough egg. Very skilled 
and very tough. Sadly, I've now lost touch with her 
completely. 

/ wondered whether this clever "little thingy" 
had been taken up commercially? 

No, never. The BBC has had the design in its 
"In Touch" catalogue for 10 years and I'm still asked how 
to construct it. The gadget is very simple really: Anyone 
can use it. I've had 50 of them made . . . maybe 100, so 
I usuallyjust send one off to enquirers. At the start, when 
I was working at Chorley Wood, the device received 
quite a bit of publicity from newspapers and TV but only 
the art critic of The Times took it really seriously - wrote 
about it as an educational tool 

Continued on page 7 



Tucson's A-Poppin'! 

By Chuck Murphy 
Van Nuys, California 

Two hundred and eighteen! That's how many 
titles were on display at the Tenth Annual Pop-up and 
Movable Book Exhibit at the University of Arizona 
library in from December 1, 1997 through February 
1998. This represented almost all the pop-up and 
movable titles released by U.S. publishers for the year. 

The curator of the exhibit was Dr. James T. 
Sinski. Professor Emeritus of the University of 
Arizona. Dr. Sinski has been collecting pop-ups since 
he received his first one as a gift in 1974. He 
assembled his first exhibit at the University of Arizona 
in 1984 and began the annual exhibit series in 1988. 
Some highlights of the series include "The Best of 3-D 
Books, Antique to Contemporary, 1548-1990" and a 
sampler of the work of V. Kubasta. a name well known 
to the collecting community. 

I was invited by Dr. Sinski to open this year's 
exhibit with an informal discussion of the processes of 
designing and producing a pop-up book. Simon and 
Schuster were sending me on a book tour that included 
Tucson and Dr. Sinski graciously offered to drive me 
to my various book signing appointments. 

The location for the exhibits is a beautiful and 
busy working university library. It was interesting to 
see these books displayed amid the bustling activity of 
college students rushing to prepare for mid-terms and 
quite pleasing to see some stop to peruse the world of 
pop-up books. 

The books on exhibit were divided into three 
display areas. The first and largest display consisted of 
ten large counter-top style cases. This type of case 
allows for the best viewing of the opened pop-up 
spreads. Each of the cases carried a title indicating a 
category such as: Christmas; The Best of 3-D; Young 
Children; Science; Interactive / Books Plus; and two 
cases contained miniature books, most of these being 
gift books for adults. These displays really showed 
what pop-up books are all about as there was great 
variety in engineering complexity and illustration 
styles. The least interesting as a category was the 
sentiment / gift mini-books. Notably absent were any 
Disney titles. They did not respond to requests for 
exhibit samples, probably couldn't afford the expense. 

The second exhibit area was on the third floor of 
the library. These cases were glass cubes, also at 



counter height, each large enough to hold two 
oversized books opened for display. These held the 
larger more elaborate titles such as The Architecture 
Pack. 

The foyer of the Special Collections Annex of the 
Library was the location of the third exhibit area. This 
display consisted of pop-up books published by Simon 
and Schuster and books designed and / or engineered 
by myself. 

A handsome 60-page catalog of the exhibit was 
designed by Robert Hershoff and included black and 
white photos of covers or interior art from some of the 
titles. Copies of the catalog are available for $10.00 
postpaid. 

Overall this was a very well organized and 
attractive exhibit. Previous shows have drawn upwards 
of 50,00 visitors. If you love those pop-ups and want to 
see 'em all in one place, and experience the scenic 
beauty of Tucson as well, get on down to the Eleventh 
Annual Exhibit. 

I want to thank Dr. James Sinski for making my 
visit so very enjoyable. Thanks also to Alex Britain for 
his considerable culinary skills and to Robert Hershoff 
for allowing me to view some wonderful books from 
the special collections. 



The 2nd Conference of The 
Movable book Society 




APRIL 30 TO MAY 2, 1998 
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA 




ROBERT SABUDA 



1 1^- Awful 

2 "& - POOR 
3tV-OK 

4 "& - Good 

5 "w" - Superb 





ABC Fun. David Pelham. Dutton. 0-525 
45827-1. $10.99 US. 16x16cm. 13 spreads. 
1 pop, 14 tab mechs. Art: Simple, bright, 
computer generated flat colors. Plot: Learning the 
ABC's in a very conceptual way. Each spread opens 
to show 2 letters and one image. Tab mech. reveals 
the relationship from 1 s ' to 2" letter. The Orange 
reveals that it has a Peel, the Queen reveals that she 
wears a Robe. Very nice. Paper Eng: Simple. 

The ancient Egyptian Pack. Concept, 
Paper Eng. & 111: Christos Kondeatis, 
Written by Sara Maitland. Bulfinch Press. 
0-8212-2327-5. S40.00 US, $54.00 Can, 25.00 UK. 
27x27cm. 6 spreads. 3 pops (1 removable), 1 (very 
complex) mask to construct, 1 game of Senet with 
plastic pieces and die, 1 paper coffin and mummy, 1 
paper hieroglyphic scroll, 3 paper amulets, one 64- 
page, black & white booklet. Art: Realistic photos, 
watercolors, and reproductions of antique prints. Plot: 
"A three-dimensional celebration of Egyptian 
mythology, culture, art, life and the afterlife" 
(Whew!). Pop of the Sphinx is cool, lots to read but 
playing pieces for Senet look like checkers played 
with a die. Caliber not of the Van der Meer series, 
but nicely put together. Paper Eng: Complex. 

Big silver space shuttle. Text: David 
Bennett Books Ltd. Ill: Ken Wilson-Max. 
Paper Eng: Uncredited. Cartwheel Books. 
0-590-10081-5. $1*4.95 US, $18.99 Can. 29x26cm. 
6 spreads. 16 pull tabs. Art: Bright, brushy simple 
paintings. Plot: How the space shuttle work. Lots of 
hands on activity for very young readers. Love the 
paintings, but the "Sturdy Pull Tabs" advertised 
aren't so sturdy. Paper Eng: Simple. 

Can you do what dog can do? In the 
morning. By Jo Lodge. Paper Eng: Un- 
credited. Barrons. 0-7641-5069-3. $5.95 US, 
$7.50 Can. 16x16cm. 12 pgs. 6 tab mechs. Art: Very 
bright, very simple, flat lines and colors. Plot: Primer 
for youngsters that shows how to get up, get dressed, 
get going, etc. demonstrated by animals. Cute and 
basic, for very young readers. Paper Eng: Very 
simple. Also: Could you do what rabbit can do? In 
the evening, 0-7641-5070-7 







The Consumate Cigar Book - A Three- 
Dimensional Reference Guide. By Robert 
Kemp. Ill: John Rowe. Paper Eng: Rives. 
Pop-up Press. 1-888443-22-7. $45.00 US, $63.00 
Can. 3 1x26x5cm (constructed like an actual cigar 
box). 9 spreads. 8 pops, 7 flaps, 1 paper journal, 1 
paper guillotine cutter. Art: Realistic colored pencil 
& airbrush. Plot: Everything you want to know about 
the current revival of the absolutely revolting (hey, 
it's my column, I can say what I want) leisure 
activity. Beautifully designed and illustrated. I 
shudder at how many will buy it as a gift to give. But 
at $45.00 it's expensive for what you get (just like 
smoking!) Paper Eng: Somewhat complex. 

Edward plants a garden. By Dale Gottlieb. 
Paper Eng: Uncredited. Envision. 1-890633- 
04-6. S7.95 US. $1 1.25 Can. 16x17cm. 10 
pgs. 6 tab mechs. 5 flaps. Art: "Maisy"-like brushy, 
bright paintings. Plot: Edward the rabbit (who looks 
suspiciously like "Maisy's" brother) shows us how a 
garden grows. For very young readers, although I 
love the line "Chicken poop helps make the garden 
grow." Paper Eng: Very simple. Also: Tulip builds a 
birdhouse. 1-890633-05-4. 

The great Pyramid. By Roscoe Cooper. Ill: 
Carolyn Croll. Paper Eng: Vicki Teague- 
Cooper. Bridgewater Books. 0-8167-4390-8. 
SI 8.95 US, $26.50 Can. 36x36x36cm (triangular). 5 
spreads. 5 pops. 1 tab mech, 8 flaps, 4 book-like 
accordions, 9 puzzle pieces, 2 paper necklaces. Art: 
realistic watercolor. Plot: Understanding ancient 
Egypt, pyramids, gods, pharaohs. etc. Well written 
and illustrated, but pops could be a little more 
exciting. Paper Eng: Somewhat complex. 

Make a joyful noise - A pop-up book of 
Christmas carols. Ill: Francesca Crespi. 
Musical arrangements: Frances Lincoln Ltd. 
Paper Eng: Uncredited. Little Simon. 0-689-81526-3. 
S14.95 US. 20x27cm. 5 spreads. 5 multi-piece pops, 
1 tab mech, 2 rotating/ dissolving wheels, 1 flap. Art: 
Folk-art type watercolors. Plot: 6 holiday songs to 
play and/or sing. Very nice art, classy and 
understated book. Paper Eng: Somewhat complex. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art - 
Masks. Design & Paper Eng: Heather 
Simmons & Olivier Charbonnel. DK 
Ink. 0-7894-2454-1. SI 9.95 US. 22x3 lcm. 5 spreads. 
5 pop-up masks that can be removed and worn. Art: 
Color photos. Plot: The history and purpose of masks 







in 5 different cultures. Well written and beautifully 
designed. Masks are very good. Paper Eng: Complex. 

r Play and count in Patche's house. By Jo 

' Lodge. Paper Eng: Uncredited. Red Wagon 
Books/Harcourt Brace & Co. 0-15-2016651. 
SI 1.95 US. 19x29cm (house shaped). 4 section wrap- 
around playset. ties open with ribbon. 3 pops, 6 tab 
mechs, 4 flaps. Art: Very bright, very simple flat 
lines and color. Plot: It's a busy day with Patches (the 
dog) and all his friends at his house. Humorous, but 
no paper pieces to remove and play with in the house. 
For very young readers. Paper Eng: Very simple. 

There's a bug in my mug! By Kent 
Salisbury. Paper Eng: Dave Werner. 
McClanahan. 1-56293-931-9. S6.99 US, 
$9.99 Can. 19x24cm. 6 spreads. 6 identical push tabs. 
Art: Humorous, computer generated. Plot: Push the 
tab and the image and word change. "Wig" becomes 
"Pig," etc. Fun concept with surprisingly good art 
from the computer. Paper Eng: Simple. Aiso: My 
nose is a hose! 1-56293-930-0. 




The Conservation Center 

Ann Montanaro 
East Brunswick, NJ 

A reoccurring question posed by collectors is 
"Where can I get books repaired?" The Conservation 
Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia is 
one place where that work is done. I recently had the 
opportunity to visit the Center and was graciously greeted 
by the Co-Director Glen Ruzicka who showed me their 
facilities and some current restoration and repair 
projects. Ten professionals and four technicians are 
employed by the Center and they combine technical 
expertise and respect for the artistic and historic integrity 
of all of the objects being treated. 

Treatment services are available for any work of 
art or historic artifact on paper. During my visit I saw a 
variety of items undergoing repair and restoration: an 
album of family photographs being restored following 
water damage; a huge Rauschenberg print on tar paper 
undergoing conservation to save it from self destruction; 
and a small, vibrant portrait constructed of tiny tooth- 
pick-size, colored sticks being restored with rolled paper 
pieces replacing missing sticks. In addition there was a 
13th Century Bible which had split wood covers which 
were being repaired and an historic Regency print which 



was being removed from the glass originally intended to 
protect it. I was also shown several Beatrix Potter books 
being repaired for the Free Library of Philadelphia 
including the pop-up The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, part 
of Lite Mrs. Strang's Playbooks series. 

The repair and restoration work done by the 
Center is superb. The first step of their work is to 
evaluate items needing repair and to make written 
recommendations about options for treatment. The 
charge for the evaluation is $75 per hour for one item or 
group of items. They produce slides before and after 
treatment is done and their aim is to make all of their 
work reversible. The work is professional and thorough 
but not inexpensive. I took a book for review which was 
in quite good condition but was lacking the spine cover. 
The spine cover had come off and I had it in two pieces. 
Their recommended treatment for that particular book 
included cleaning both covers, strengthening the text 
block, and fixing the spine at an estimated cost of 
between $300 and $500. The Center also prepares 
clamshell storage boxes for individual items at a cost of 
between $175 and $200. Four-flap covers are also 
available, designed and produced for specific, individual 
books. 

Any book sent to the Center for consideration 
must be insured and sent by Federal Express. The Center 
has Fine Art insurance for the item while it is on their 
premises and the owner is required to pay for the 
insurance. The Center's clients range from individual 
collectors sending one book to the Library of Congress. 
For more information contact the Center at 264 South 
23rd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103 or call 215-545- 
0613. 

If books in your collection need repair, that 
work should be done professionally to ensure that it is 
done correctly and that the repair will not eventually 
further damage the book. If repair is not immediately 
available or if safe storage is needed, an alternative is 
acid-free, archival storage boxes. Three companies 
supply boxes and information about conservation and 
preservation. The catalog "Archival Quality Materials for 
Conservation, Restoration, and Preservation," is 
available from University Products, 517 Main St., P.O. 
101, Holyoke, MA 01041-0101. Light Impressions calls 
itself "The leading resource for archival supplies." The 
address for their catalog is 439 Monroe Ave., P.O. Box 
940, Rochester, NY 14603-0940. Gaylord Bros., a library 
supplier, has a catalog "Gaylord Archival: Storage 
materials and conservation supplies." It is available at 
P.O. Box 4901, Syracuse, New York 13221-4901. 



Auction Results 

Ann Montanaro 
East Brunswick, NJ 

The Swann Galleries auction held in New York on 
January 8, 1998, included a large number of movables, 
transformations, and pop-ups which were sold for quite 
high prices. Books were auctioned individually and in 
lots of up to 40 books. The on-site participation was 
smaJl with no more than 50 people in the audience, but 
many bidders had submitted offers in advance and others 
participated over the telephone. These are representative 
prices realized from some of the individual items sold at 
the auction: 



Questions 

Q. I have tried to purchase Choo-Choo Charlie listed in 
the December issue of Movable Stationery but have been 
unable to find a copy. Could you help me locate this title? 

Kay Wise 
Ravenna. Ohio 

A. Choo-Choo Charlie is available for $24.95 but it may 
be difficult to find as it is a playset and may not be 
carried by all bookstores. It has a story and pop-up 
village. Both Borders and Barnes & Noble carry the title 
as does Amazon.com. 



Always jolly! Meggendorfer. [1890]. $1,200. 

Clown putty face. Meggendorfer. [1895]. Minimum price 

not met. 

Comic actors. Meggendorfer. [1900]. SI, 700. 

Dean 's new book of dissolving scenes [1862]. $950. 

Hopalong Cassidy and Lucky at the Double X Ranch. 

[1950], $80. 

Lebende bilder. Meggendorfer. [1878]. $950. 

Magic pictures: A book of changing scenes. Nister. 

[1890], $425. 

Pantomime Pictures Nister. [1895]. $700. 

The pop-up Minnie Mouse and The Pop-up Mickey 

Mouse. [1933]. $750. 

Touch andgo. Nister. [1890]. $375. 

Travels of little Lord Thumb and his man Damian. 

Meggendorfer. [1892|. $1,900. Shown Below 




Q. In Tony Sarg's book Treasure Island, a pirate on an 
island is looking for the treasure. There is a long, 
shallow pocket. What did it hold? 

Ellen Rubin 
Scarsdale, New York 

A. I had the Tony Sarg book as a child. I recently found 
it again, but it also does not have anything in the shallow 
pocket on the pirate page. I recall it being a small bag - 
muslin, I think, tied with a string. Inside were a few gold 
play coins. 

Betty Tisinger 
Moneta, Virginia 



Q. Theodore Brown's Magic Pictures was reviewed in 
the December issue. Is it available in the US? 

Sue Rothwell 
Salt Lake City, Utah 

A. George Hall is distributing this book in the US. The 
price is $58 including postage. Make checks payable to 
George Hall. P.O. Box 64246, Tucson, Arizona 85728. 



1998 Book Arts Jamboree 

The Book Arts Jamboree is five days of 
instruction in making pop-ups, boxes, tunnel books, 
wearable books, and paper engineering. Held at the 
Cedar Terrace Resort in the Catskill Mountains of New 
York, the jamboree will feature instruction by Carolyn 
Cadwick, Ed Hutchins, Robert Sabuda, and Miriam 
Schaer. The dates are June 7-12, 1998 and the cost is 
$550. For more information telephone 518-622-01 13 or 
send email to queerbooksr?aol.com 



Continued from page 2 

rather than the basis for a sentimental story. Later I 
contacted 150 blind schools throughout Britain, trying to 
interest staff in the possibilities of its use for teaching maths 
and geography as well as art itself - but I received no 
response. 

So, a slightly disappointed conclusion to your 
endeavours whilst at the Royal College. What next? 

Well at first I wanted to return to Holland but I 
hadn't any useful contacts there in my specialization. No 
one at the RCA could help me either. So I had to go outside 
- to London University, to educational manufacturers - to 
ask for advice and help. And to get criticism of the work 1 
had been doing. At the same time, I started getting part-time 
jobs at places like Goldsmith's and St. Martin's art schools 
teaching graphic design, typography, illustration, 
photography, animation . . . you name it I taught it! But I 
always preferred the opportunities for working in three 
dimensions. Then I was approached by someone who was 
a senior lecturer at London University who was a specialist 
in severely handicapped children. He told me that he and a 
colleague were planning a new reading scheme for primary 
education and asked whether I would like to join. At that 
stage there was no money; no publisher; no certainty of 
commercial application. I said: "Terrific! When do I 
begin?" 

I worked on the project for six months and then 
we found a publisher (the Educational Supply Association 
in Harlow) and getting the whole thing into production kept 
me busy for the next two years. It was a complete reading 
system packed into an enormous box for which I did all the 
illustrations and devised the various flash cards, display 
sheets, pockets and envelopes that were needed. It was a 
forerunner of several similar teaching aids that came out in 
the early 70s. It sold quite well, I remember, and may still 
be in print for all I know. 

That led on to a number of commissions designing 
toys and board games. For instance, I devised a traffic game 
in co-operation with the Royal Society for the Prevention of 
Accidents; I did some jigsaw puzzles for the Toy Trumpet 
Company and the MacMillan's (Educational) asked me to 
design board games to help in the teaching of mathematics. 
At about that time - the mid-70s - I also illustrated a 
number of reading primers for the same firm, eight titles in 
the Fred. Maggs and Creep ' series. 

Then, in 1978, 1 saw my first pop-ups. As a matter 
of feet a friend lent them to me but he never got them back! 
I feel a bit bad about it, really, but they came as such a 
revelation. They were those tall thin ones produced by 



Graphics International and published in America by 
Random House: The titles were The many mice of Mr. 
Brice (by Theo LeSieg, 1973) and The action fun book of 
opposites. I had never seen anything like them before. I 
hadn't come across the Bookano annuals (Published in the 
UK between 1932-52 which feature "stand-up models") 
nor Kubasta's Czechoslovakian pop-ups (distributed by 
Bancroft in London and widely available throughout 
Europe and America during the '60s and 70s). This was 
my first encounter with paper engineering and I thought it 
was amazing. I knew at once it was what I wanted to do. 

/ asked how he had gone about reinventing 
himself as a maker of pop-ups? 

Well, it took a fair time to prepare. I had the idea 
for a book about two little children who take a balloon trip 
to an exotic island inhabited by weird (but mostly friendly) 
creatures. They have some unusual encounters before flying 
safely off again. The publishers. Hamish Hamilton, liked 
my outline but had no means of producing a three- 
dimensional book themselves. So they brought in 
Intervisual Communications, the California-based 
packager, to help with design and engineering. That's Wally 
Hunt's company, of course: He's the man who has 
completely revitalized pop-ups over the last three decades. 
He liked the concept and agreed to take it on. 

Of course. I had my own ideas about how things 
could work, but two far more experienced paper engineers, 
John Strejan and Tor Lokvig, were assigned to the project 
by Intervisual to help knock my preliminary 
treatment into 
shape. From 
then on we 
worked closely 
together; I 
started playing 
with effects but 
not knowing 
enough about it 
came up with 
too many 
complexities: 
cutting some 
parts so finely 
that they could 
snag in 
production; 
including 
unnecessary 
gluing points 

that would merely add to the costs. Obviously you can only 
learn about such things from experience. 




I had enormous fun with it and gained a lot. Really 
all I was interested in was using a whole variety of colourful 
monsters; land monsters, sea monsters, flying monsters, as 
an excuse for establishing myself in a medium that - for me 
- was quite new. I'm glad to say that the book - inevitably 
called Monster Island 2 - proved a great success all over 
the world: one of Wally's all-time gTeats. It has been 
translated into French, German, Spanish . . . even Japanese. 
And, do you know, ifs still in print? 

Sometimes it is difficult to follow-up an initial 
best-seller of this sort, since people just expect more of the 
same. In fact Van der Meer went on quire a different tack. 
With the team from Intervisual he produced The pop-up 
games book 3 , which provided young players with four 
rather peculiar dimensional challenges of skill (mostly 
variations on tiddlwvinks!) Within the covers of a book. A 
similar compendium. Magic tricks pop-up book 4 , which he 
devised, designed, illustrated, wrote and engineered 
himself was an attempt to incorporate a range of simple 
illusions for the junior magician into the same fold-away 
format. Neither of them hit the jackpot in quite the same 
way as Monster Island but provided their originator with 
sufficient confidence to go independent - to become not 
only a designer/engineer but a packager as well. I asked 
how this came about. 

I'd been talking with Raymond Briggs about 
adapting his Fungus the Bogeyman as a pop-up. It had first 
appeared in 1977 as sort of a weird comic book about a 
family of troglodytes, published by Hamish Hamilton. This 
original version contained lots of handwritten text and 
cartoon pictures which had to be adapted and simplified to 
fit the new format. Raymond initially suggested quite a 
different storyline: he wanted me to do a sort of 
Shakespearian restaurant that was run by his troll. So we sat 
opposite each other for about three weeks, fiddling and 
playing with the idea. I took his drawings and cut them up. 
trying to make something that would work in three 
dimensions and as a movable. We just made it up as we 
went along. When we were both happy with the new 
version of our little green monster, we took a mock-up to 
Hamish Hamilton expecting Wally Hunt at Intervisual to 
snap up the rights. In fact he didn't want to know about it. 
And no one else - none of the other packagers - liked the 
idea of our smelly sewer-dweller who picked his nose and 
pulled his filthy trousers down to go to the lavatory! But 
Hamish Hamilton still wanted to publishe and asked "Can 
you produce it yourself?" I replied that I'd never done it 
before, but I thought I could tackle it. So that's how Van der 
Meer Designs became Van der Meer Productions. 

The book appeared as Fungus the Bogeyman 
plop-up book 5 in 1982 and was a runaway success. I 
remember that when it first came out we put piles in little 
dump-bins and then invited the sales reps from the big 
distributors like W.H. Smiths and Book Club Associates to 



come and meet us. As soon as buyers came in they spotted 
the distinctive cover and were immediately intrigued. 




You know how irresistible the book is? I'd say "Pull the tab 
and see the Bogeyman pissing his pants!" There had never 
been anything like it before ... the orders rolled in. Of 
course little boys especially enjoyed it. It was the first 
contemporary pop-up that had been commissioned by a 
publisher. 

During all this time he continued teaching at art 
schools on a part-time basis: not only at Goldsmith's and 
St. Martin's but at Middlesex Polytechnic, Coventry and 
elsewhere. In 1975 he was invited to return to the Royal 
College as a tutor in the Graphics Information 
Department, a position he continued to hold until four 
years ago. I asked him what this entailed? 

Basically it was teaching students how to find the 
correct approach to design problems. Normally, a graphic 
artist tends to undertake a job with the idea of imposing his 
(or her) own aesthetic criteria on it, making a distinctive, 
personal impression. Certainly that's how I was trained: 
everything had to conform to my ideas. The reason I was 
asked to teach at the RCA was because I now believe that 
every design problem should generate its own unique 
response. Style should be subservient to practicalities not 
the other way round. That's the difference between me and 
some other paper engineers - I don't design pop-ups just to 
make pretty things. We use pop-up techniques only when 
we think we can explain things better, making concepts 
more explicit. . . perhaps even tell funnier jokes . . .by 
working dimensionally. All of this applies particularly to 
the series of educational packs I've produced in recent years 
- each of them poses particular design problems that 
demand to be resolved individually. Much of my work at 
the RCA was along similar lines: asking students to find 
solutions that answer specific needs. 



At one point I was offered the chance to set up a 
paper engineering course at the Royal College but I said: 
"No." For one thing, there wouldn't be enough work for 
graduates. And for another, I didn't want to create too much 
competition! I sometimes think that paper engineers are 
born rather than trained. There are only about 10 or 12 
good ones in the world - people who still possess the ability 
to surprise. In my view, the best of them all - 1 mean of the 
older ones - are lb Pennick and John Strejan. They are both 
getting on now, of course, probably between 65 and 70, but 
the really amazing thing about them both is that they are 
still like little boys. If they show you something new that 
they have done, they bubble over with excitement. They 
haven't become cynical or disillusioned with the business. 
Especially John ... in terms of pure paper engineering, he's 
still the very best. I could ring him any time to say "John, 
I've got a problem, how can I fold this and make it work?" 
and he'll sit there, smoking (a typical Californian with 
chains hanging all over and jeans tight enough to make your 
eyes water) and he'll fold and snip with a little pair of 
scissors, working very fast, until he's teased out the perfect 
answer. "Silver Blades" he calls himself- silver hair and 
his nail scissors. I just call him The Maestro! 

Once established as an up-and-coming 
production house, the Van der Meer machine went into 
gear with a string of notable international successes: 
Sailing ships 6 , Majesty in flight 7 , The working camera 8 , 
Snow man pop-up 9 (another collaboration with Raymond 
Briggs), Great movies live 10 , Phantom of the opera ' ', Hugh 
Johnson's pop-up wine book 1: and many more novelties, 
gift books, primers, adaptations, promotional items and 
greeting cards. Increasingly he drew in other talented 
illustrators such as Babette Cole, Lesley Anne Ivory, and 
Fran Thatcher to supply the graphics, enabling him to 
concentrate more on designing the mechanics and steering 
the books through production - a gradual shift from the 
creative to the administrative side that he obviously 
relishes with only minor regrets. 

Unlike many other paper engineers, I've got to 
think both as an editor and a designer - look at books as a 
whole. What happens on the first page, the second and so 
on, ensuring there's a good flow through them all. Are we 
suing too many gluing-points at the beginning? How can we 
spread the effects out to produce a satisfying whole? At the 
same time, I am thinking: "What production problems are 
we going to run up against? What market are we aiming at? 
How much can we sell this for?" All these considerations 
make my work different from that of a straightforward 
engineer. In the past I've been approached by many 
publishers who say "We've got a terrific idea . . . can you 
make it into a pop-up?" And I always say "No" because 
that would take the fun out of it. Now I'm on my own and I 
want control of everything. Indeed, I'm presently setting up 
as a publisher too. so that in future I will be in charge right 
from the drawing board to the bookshop display racks. 



As Van der Meer Publishing Ltd emerges as a 
full-fledged publisher, the trend seems set towards adult 
titles such as The brain pack (which appeared in America 
last fall) aw/ The architecture pack which (on the evidence 
of the dummies that were being worked on when I was 
there) is likely to be a superb addition to the lengthening 
series when it appears in America and possible in the UK 
later this year. 

Yes, it's true. We are deliberately moving more 
into the adult market though we still plan to continue doing 
five or six for children each year. It's a natural development 
for us. There's so much competition now in the field of pop- 
ups for youngsters and I'm not really interested in fighting 
for the middle ground. So I've come back to the educational 
side, which after all is where I began. Maybe it's something 
to do with my Calvinist upbringing . . . "Thou shall not have 
fun unless ifs got a serious purpose" ... or something like 
that. The first of the learning kits was The art pack and 
setting that up proved an enormous gamble. Almost 
everyone predicted a flop. But I managed to prove to the 
doubters that a market exists for seriously-intentioned pop- 
ups - and that it was a big one, even when you have to 
charge £20 a time and more. You call them adult books but 
we're aiming at bright 15-year-olds - enquiring minds, 
those who are looking for a new slant on subjects that 
sometimes appear boring. The books are packed with 
models, diagrams, moving parts, pull-out accessories and 
even cassettes where appropriate: we try to engage all the 
senses in a way that just isn't possible from a CD-ROM, for 
instance. The books exist in real space and time. You can 
feel things, touch them, experiment. We've done research 
that suggests that if you read and experience one of our 
Packs, up to 70% of the information is retained. Yet 
apparently it is difficult to remember more than 20% of the 
facts in an ordinary textbook. 

The Packs sell an average of 200.000 copies 
worldwide - some do a lot better. The maths pack has sold 
over 300.000 and did especially well in America. All of 
them go phenomenally well over there, whereas on this side 
of the Atlantic they are a disappointment. Maybe it's the 
cost. Or perhaps the poor publicity. The art pack didn't get 
a single review in the UK. No one takes pop-ups seriously 
here! 

Despite these local difficulties, Ron van der Meer, 
illustrator, designer, paper engineer, packager - and now 
publisher - seems poised for global lift-off. The next 
prestigious project, he told me, was to be a series of three 
dimensional national guides starting with one about 
Holland (despite the apparent dichotomy, where else?). 
High-level sponsorship for this is in the offing and should 
he again bring his magic touch to the venture - as seems 
eminently likely - then the world should truly become his 
oyster. I finished by asking whether he ever felt the need to 
test-market any of these ideas? Never, he replied. I always 



instinctively know if something will work. 

Of course, 1 realised (as I made May for the TV 
crew who were already setting up their camera to film him) 
Ron van der Meer has exactly those qualities of the 
typically bright, mischievous, hyperactive 1 5-year-old that 
he creates his work for. For one with the Super Fluous 
energy. He is his own control! Someone who has 
succeeded in designed a life that exactly matches his needs 
- and offers limitless further opportunities for exploration. 

Books illustrated, designed, engineered, and/or 
packaged by Ron van der Meer mentioned in the text. 

1 . Fred, Maggs and Creep series of 8 titles, 
MacMillan (Educational), London, 1976. 

2. Monster Island, Hamish Hamilton. London, 
[also Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, USA] 1981. 

3. The world's first pop-up games book, 
Heinemann, London, [also Delacourt, USA] 1982. 

4. The pop-up book of magic tricks, Heinemann, 
London, [also Viking, USA] 1983. 

5. Fungus the Bogeyman plop-up book. Hamish 
Hamilton, London, 1982. 

6. Sailing ships. Penguin Books. London, [also 
Viking, USA] 1984. 



7. Majesty inflight, The Abbeville Press, USA, 



1984. 



15. The brain pack, Running Press, USA, 1996. 

16. The architecture pack, Knopf, USA, 1997. 



This article originally appeared in Children 's Literature in Education, 
vol. 28, # 1 , 1 997 and it is reprinted with permission from the publisher. 



ui 



8. The working camera. Angus and Robertson, 
UK, [also Harmony. USA] 1986. 



Catalogs Received 

Catalog 56. Aleph-Bet Books. 218 Waters Edge, Valley 
Cottage, NY 10989. Phone: 914-268-7410. Fax: 914- 
268-5942. Email: alephbet@ix.netcom.com. 

Selective Catalogue - New Year 1998. Ampersand 
Books. Ludford Mill. Ludlow, Shropshire Sy8 1PP UK. 
Phone: 01584 877813. Fax: 01584 877519. Email: 
ampersand. books (2imcmail.com. 

Catalogue Number 4. Thomas and Mary Jo Barron. 120 
Lismore Ave.. Glenside, PA 19038. Phone: 215-572- 
6293. 

Catalogue 23. A. Dalrymple. 1791 Graefield, 
Birmingham, MI 48009. Phone: 810-649-2149. 

Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night. Catalog 
17. Books of the Ages. Gary J. Overmann. Maple Ridge 
Manor. 4764 Silverwood Dr., Batavia, Ohio 45103. 
Phone:513-732-3456. 

Jo Ann Reisler. Ltd. Catalogues 40, 4 1 , and 42. 360 
Glyndon St., NE, Vienna VA. Phone:703-938-2967. Fax: 
703-938-9057. Email: Reisler@clark.net. 




9. The snowman pop-up, Hamish Hamilton. 
London, 1986. 

10. Great movies live! Ebury Press. London, [also 
Simon & Schuster, USA] 1987. 

11. The phantom of the opera, Aurum Press, UK, 
[also Harper & Row, USA] 1988. 

12. Hugh Johnson ;s pop-up wine book. Octopus 
Books, UK, [also Harper & Row. USA] 1989. 

13. The art pack, Ebury Press, UK. [also Knopf. 
USA] 1992. 

14. The maths pack. Jonathan Cape. London, 
[also: The math kit, Scribners, USA] 1994. 



New Publications 

The following titles have been identified from pre- 
publication publicity, publisher's catalogs, or adver- 
tising. All titles include pop-ups unless otherwise 
identified. Titles reviewed in Robert Sabuda's "Movable 
Reviews" column are not included in this list. 

Curious critters: A pop-up menagerie. David Carter. 
Little Simon. May. 9" x 9". 5 spreads. S16.95. 0-689- 
81586-7. 

Lest we forget: A three-dimensional interactive book 
with photographs and documents from the Black 
Holocaust Museum. Crown Publishing. 10" x 10". 32 
pages. S29.95. 0-609-60030-3. 



10